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Publisher's Summary

The first Black female CEO of a Fortune 500 company looks back at her life and her career at Xerox, sharing unique insights on American business and corporate life, the workers she has always valued, racial and economic justice, how greed is threatening democracy, and the obstacles she’s conquered being Black and a woman.

“I am a Black woman, I do not play golf, I do not belong to or go to country clubs, I do not like NASCAR, I do not listen to country music, and I have a masters degree in engineering. I, like a typical New Yorker, speak very fast, with an accent and vernacular that is definitely New York City, definitely Black. So when someone says I’m going to introduce you to the next CEO of Xerox, and the options are lined up against a wall, I would be the first one voted off the island.” 

In 2009, when she was appointed the Chief Executive Officer of the Xerox Corporation, Ursula Burns shattered the glass ceiling and made headlines. But the media missed the real story, she insists. “It should have been ‘how did this happen? How did Xerox Corporation produce the first African-American woman CEO?’ Not this spectacular story titled, “Oh, my God, a Black woman making it.” 

In this smart, no-nonsense book, part memoir and part cultural critique, Burns writes movingly about her journey from tenement housing on Manhattan’s Lower East Side to the highest echelons of the corporate world. She credits her success to her poor single Panamanian mother, Olga Racquel Burns - a licensed child-care provider whose highest annual income was $4,400 - who set no limits on what her children could achieve. Ursula recounts her own dedication to education and hard work, and how she took advantage of the opportunities and social programs created by the civil rights and women’s movements to pursue engineering at Polytechnic Institute of New York. 

Burns writes about overcoming the barriers she faced, as well as the challenges and realities of the corporate world. Her classmates and colleagues - almost all White males - “couldn’t comprehend how a Black girl could be as smart, and in some cases, smarter than they were. They made a developed category for me. Unique. Amazing. Spectacular. That way they could accept me”. Her 35-year career at Xerox was all about fixing things, from cutting millions to save the company from bankruptcy to a daring six-billion-dollar acquisition to secure its future. Ursula also worked closely with President Barack Obama as a lead on his STEM initiative and chair of his Export council, where she traveled with him on an official trade mission to Cuba, and became one of his greatest admirers. 

Candid and outspoken, Ursula offers a remarkable look inside the c-suites of corporate America through the eyes of a Black woman - someone who puts humanity over greed and justice over power. She compares the impact of the pandemic to the financial crisis of 2007, condemns how corporate culture is destroying the spirit of democracy, and worries about the workers whose lives are being upended by technology. Empathetic and dedicated, idealistic and pragmatic, Ursula demonstrates that, no matter your circumstances, hard work, grit and a bit of help along the way can change your life - and the world. 

©2021 Ursula Burns (P)2021 HarperCollins Publishers

What listeners say about Where You Are Is Not Who You Are

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Relatable story, flaws and all

Enjoyed listening and appreciate the golden nuggets of learning with ample story details. I hope more people in power take chances in reaching out to the minority and underprivileged.

1 person found this helpful

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The Hon. Ursula Burns

You book was so moving. I downloaded it after you recently spoke at Spelman College for President Campbell’s Courageous Conversation. You are the brilliance a mother hopes for. I teared up each time you teared up, especially at the end. I too recently lost my husband of 34 years. When you begin to speak about his transition, I teared up at the same time you did. Your story is wonderful and needed to be told.
Congratulations on all things well-done!

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Must Read for Aspiring Leaders and Entrepreneurs

Ursula Burns book is filled with many, many valuable lessons for aspiring leaders, executives and entrepreneurs. I literally took notes and that has never happened before but it was like sitting in a MasterClass on Leadership. She was brutally honest and transparent about her wins, her shortcomings and lessons learned. Thank you to all who made this book possible and Ursula for having the courage to walk this path and share your truth.

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Heartfelt

What a life! This was such a joy and honor to learn about the life of such a brilliant woman. This was even more meaningful knowing we are about to have our first Black Supreme Court judge. Beautiful book.

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Unconventional and inspiring CEO made possible by unconventional people and company

Great insights for female execs and aspiring execs, but also for White male executives who are serious about diversity and inclusion. This provides perspective on how to create a company that could appoint the next Black female CEO.

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Extraordinary Woman

I so enjoyed reading about Ursula Burns. She is a remarkable woman whom I wish I had met during my formative professional years. I will recommend her book to all young people who have much to learn from an icon who rose to the pinnacle of the corporate ladder. She is remarkable and extraordinary because of who she is not where she landed. This world needs more Ursulas!

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Great story

Thank you Ursula for sharing your story. A great way to end 2021 filled with hope and inspiration. Don’t let the world happen to you and don’t do anything your mom would not be proud of!

This is a very practical book. Ursula does not shy away from who she is as she writes this book and keeps it real.

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Amazing story!

I loved this book. I had no idea what Ursula Burns' childhood was like. It is amazing what she has accomplished. I am inspired by how her mother took action to ensure that her children did well in life. Even though she made mistakes, in the end, she was successful. Ursula Burns is an awesome role model for women of all races. I am excited to see what else she accomplishes. Maybe president of the US?

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Real, down-to-earth CEO perpective

Loved this book! Told from a very unique perspective . highly recommend you read it.

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  • kt
  • 11-11-21

I enjoyed it

The story was great, her upbringing extremely interesting. Her narrative was a bit halting but its still great to hear the book in the words of the author.

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  • PoppyGirl
  • 03-09-22

Outstanding and Endlessly Inspiring

Impeccably written and wonderfully narrated. This was such a compelling memoir and I found the clarity and self awareness of the author so refreshing. She really comes through strongly; you get a sense of Ms Burns as being highly principled, strong willed, focused, but also heart centred, honest and wise. And naturally, her rise from poverty and struggle to hard earned success makes for her a brilliant role model for many. As a minority woman I was continually inspired by this book, and many times moved by her story.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 02-07-22

Great listen

Great listen, informative, personal and absolutely unique. Well done Ursula, truly an insight into an incredible career.